Almost 73 per cent of the population lives in urban areas. Russia became a country of large cities despite government restrictions during the Soviet period designed to limit the populations of major urban centres. Thirteen cities have more than 1 million inhabitants; most of these are in European Russia. Another 80 have populations of between 1 million and 200,000. The largest city by far is Moscow, the capital, with a population of 10,469,000 (2003 estimate). St Petersburg (called Leningrad during the Soviet era), which served as the national capital from 1712 to 1918, is the country’s second city. It is situated on the Gulf of Finland, a leading port and a primary industrial centre, and has a population of 4,596,000 (2005 estimate). The third-largest city, Nizhniy Novgorod, the largest city on the Volga and a major automotive and shipbuilding centre, has a population of 1,370,200 (2007 estimate).
Novosibirsk, the largest city in Siberia, has a population of 1,405,569 (2004 estimate). Yekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk), the largest city in the Urals, has a population of 1,304,251 (2004 estimate). Samara (Kuibyshev), a commercial centre of the middle Volga region and the primary refining centre for the Volga-Urals oilfields, has 1,133,418 inhabitants (2004 estimate). Omsk, the second-largest city in western Siberia and the region’s chief petrochemical centre, has 1,142,773 people (2004 estimate). The other cities with more than 1 million inhabitants include Chelyabinsk, the second-largest urban centre in the Ural Mountains; Kazan, capital of the Tatar republic, located on the middle Volga;
Perm, the major industrial centre in the Kama River region to the west of the Urals; Ufa, an important petrochemicals centre in the southern Urals; and Rostov, a commercial, industrial, and transport centre in southern European Russia on the lower Don River.
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